Project CHECO Report



1 JANUARY 1967 TO 1 JULY 1968

Rules of Engagement

Rules of Engagement (ROE) were agreed upon by CINCPAC. COMUSMACV, and the American Embassy in Vientiane. They were directive in nature and compliance was required by all U.S. military forces carrying out activities in Laos. Supplementing these rules, and usually more restrictive, were operating rules and policies established by the Commander, 7AF. Rules of Engagement formally stated what was permitted or forbidden in air operations.

In January 1967, the seven sectors, A through G, delineated armed reconnaissance areas in BARREL ROLL and STEEL TIGER (North, and TIGER HOUND). (See Fig.1.) In these areas, U.S. aircraft were allowed to conduct strikes outside of villages, against targets of opportunity. Any target of opportunity could be struck, day or night, provided it was located within 200 yards of a motorable trail or road.

Provisions were in force to strike other types of targets. Fixed targets, targets of opportunity outside the armed recon areas, or targets of opportunity within the armed recon area, but more than 200 yards from a motorable road or trail, could also be attacked. However, one of the following stipulations had to be met:

The target had to be a validated RLAF "A" or "B" target.

Approval had to be obtained from AIRA, Vientiane, AIRA, Savannakhet, or an AIRA, FAC.

Gunfire had been received from the target.

Airborne and ground FACS, plus the MSQ-77, aided the strike aircraft. The MSQ-77 could be used to guide strikes against validated targets, day or night, and in all weather. FACs were required:

On close air support missions. When called for by the American Embassy on certain specified targets.

Within five kilometers of the Cambodian Border.

On all night strikes against fixed targets, unless under MSQ direction.

Against large traffic on streams and rivers, other than the main stream of the Song Ma River.

It was mandatory that aircraft, which carried out strikes without FAC or MSQ assistance, confirm their position by radar or TACAN beforehand. If any doubt existed concerning his position, the pilot was not to expend his ordnance.

Two zones had been established in the STEEL TIGER area of Laos whichhad slightly different rules. One was called CRICKET WEST (and FRINGE). The CRICKET area had originally been a particular region, near the Nape Pass,in which U.S. aircraft conducted concentrated interdiction. As enemy ground forces threatened friendly positions to the west of the interdiction area, U.S. aircraft lent support. This area was called CRICKET WEST. Further extensions of these operations were dubbed CRICKET FRINGE. All strikes in these latter operations had to be FAC-directed.

The other unique region was called the STEEL TIGER special operating area. Established in November 1966, it was a narrow strip of the eastern Pan- handle of Laos that stretched from just north of the DMZ, along the NVN and SVN borders, south to Cambodia. (See Fig. 1.) This area had been set aside to provide additional flexibility in operations, Armed recon without FACs was authorized in this strip against all enemy activity. This allowed the effective use of sorties diverted from ROLLING THUNDER which arrived over Laos, when there were no FACs available or when the strike aircraft had little fuel remaining.

U.S. aircraft were prohibited from flying over a number of Laotian cities. Luang Prabang and Vientiane had to be avoided by at least 25-NM; Attopeu, Pakse, Saravane, Savannakhet, and Thakhek were to be skirted by 10-NM and 15,000 feet. Later, Muong Phalane was added to the list. However, A-1 propeller-driven aircraft were authorized to penetrate within 10 miles of Attopeu when attacking targets along Route 110, a major enemy artery in the extreme south.

The Rules of Engagement were continually adjusted to allow for a changing ground situation or to avoid international complications. These adjustments were either permanent or temporary. For example, in January 1967, BARREL ROLL was expanded to cover a highway route being used by the enemy; in February, Russian complaints about strikes in the Khang Khay region temporarily halted strikes there; and, also in February, a proposed International Control Commission meeting at Xieng Khouang put that locale off limits. At the very end of February, a major revision in the Rules of Engagement was carried out.


Prepared by Capt. Edward Valentiny

Project CHECO 7th AF, DOAC